Russian history 14: Influence of the church on everyday life

The church attempted to raise the authority of the knyaz power, while teaching the knyazes themselves to rule in accordance with the moral principles: "you shall punish the evil and reward the kind." This view was based on the idea that the power of a knyaz, just like any power on Earth, is established by God. Since a knyaz is a servant of God, he should rule by his principles. Equally, the citizens should not plot against the knyaz, but should see him as the lord, chosen by God. The church strongly opposed the paganist position that the knyaz is a warlord, elected for his military talents and receiving a payment for his leadership. When knyazes themselves lost their honor in quarrels and feuds, the church tried to restore peace between them, using Constantinople, where the power of the autocrat was unquestioned, as an example.

Since the people of Rus were united into clans, tribes, guilds, etc., the church formed another similar union, which included the clergy, the people protected by the clergy, and the people who served the church and depended on it. The church protected those who could not take care of themselves -- the poor and the ill. Church also gave protection to the izgoys, who lost the protection of other groups. Izgoys and slaves worked for the church. These people did not depend on knyaz anymore, and depended on the church only, who viewed them as equal christians. There was no slavery in the church: the slaves presented to the church became free men, even though they were obliged to live on the church's lands and work for the church.

The church also influenced the society to improve the family relationships. On the basis of a Greek law, accepted by Russian knyazes, all crimes against religion and moral laws were to be judged by the church, not by knyaz. Such crimes included blasphemy, sorcery, paganist rituals. Also, the judges of the church solved family conflicts. In these conflicts, the clergy tried to eliminate the paganist traditions, like polygamy, brideprice, family violence, etc., using the laws of the Byzantine empire.

Another area of public life where the church objected against cruelty was slavery. The clerics taught the lords to be merciful to the slaves and to remember that the slaves are human beings and christians. They objected not only against murdering of slaves, but also against cruel treatment of them. In some cases, the church demanded certain slaves to be freed. While such moves did not eliminate slavery in itself, cruelty towards slaves began to be seen as a sin. It was not punished by the law, but it was condemned by the church and the society.

Such wide influence of the church was especially strong due to the fact that the power of the knyazes was still insufficiently strong, and the knyazes themselves often led wars between each other, while the power of the metropolitan was centralized and uniform all over Russia. The church gave the first example of monarchy in Russia.

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